• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 8:02am
NewsHong Kong

Panel suggests prefabricated housing for families in subdivided flats

Panel suggests temporary solution for those in subdivided flats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 1:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 1:31am

Advisers have suggested building temporary housing on vacant sites for families living in subdivided flats.

This is among recommendations released yesterday by the Long-term Housing Strategy Committee, which also cautioned against rent controls and subsidies for people awaiting public housing.

The committee gave no details about the transitional homes or how they would differ from the temporary housing areas widely used until the 1990s.

But one member said earlier they could be two to three storeys high and built of prefabricated materials.

The idea was rejected by a housing activist and a government source said it was unlikely to go ahead.

Lee Tai-shing, of the Concern for Grassroots Livelihood Alliance, said the committee was trying to evade the most pressing housing issues.

"The real solution should be to rehouse these people in subdivided flats in public housing," he said, "It is not helpful to put them in another inadequate shelter."

The government source said: "We would rather build public flats if we can identify sites but the logistics industry has strong demand for those sites, too."

In its report on the public response to housing suggestions put up for discussion in September, the committee warned of the negative effects of rent controls or housing subsidies, despite repeated calls from low-income families for such help.

"Controlling rents could discourage landlords from letting their flats and thus decrease the supply of flats," Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said as he released the report.

Cheung, chairman of the committee, said giving rent subsidies to those queuing for a public flat was also "undesirable" as it would probably drive rents up, "thereby partially offsetting the benefits to the tenants".

According to the report, people did not support the licencing of subdivided flats deemed relatively safe. It was seen as giving flat owners an amnesty from the building code and they would probably pass on the cost of any required repairs to their tenants.

The committee also supported the suggestion of building 470,000 flats in the next decade - 60 per cent of them public rental and subsidised flats - that was adopted by the chief executive in his policy address last month.

Other proposals include regularly reviewing the eligibility of public flat applicants - of whom there were 243,000 at the end of last year - shortening the public housing queue for single people over 35 and selling up to 30 per cent of subsidised flats to singles.

Unionist legislator Leung Yiu-chung, an advocate of rent control, expressed disappointment and questioned the impartiality of the committee, which is chaired by the housing minister.

"It is not clear what role the committee plays. Is it reflecting the government's views? If so, why bother to set up the committee?" he asked.

Legislative Council housing panel chairman Wong Kwok-hing said the proportion of public flats in the 10-year target should be increased from 60 per cent to 70 per cent.


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This article is now closed to comments

Let's just go back to squatter villages while we are at it? First and foremost, all public housing tenants need to be subject to an annual audit on financials means. Can be as simple as an IRD tax returns. I think govt. will find many occupants are no longer qualified. Just look at the carparks: anyone with a car should not qualify. I also know of one person renting a public flat as the original occupant has gone on to better things while keeping their subsidized flat for rental income. I'm sure she is not the only one.
Secondly, by the time one builds the infrastructure to support 'temporary housing', permanent housing could have been built. Temporary housing is much more complicated that parking a few containers on a vacant site.
Increase the minimum wage to the point that one can have a decent lifestyle. Try living on $30 per hour! Increase annually until we reach something like $60 per hour and watch the number of people applying for public housing drop.
Public housing like so many other govt. programs is really there to subsidize employers so they can continue to pay less than subsistence wages. Hasn't Hong Kong gone beyond the stage where a few become fabulously wealthy while the masses struggle to survive? So long as we have cage homes and elderly scavenging in waste bins to survive, we are failing to be a world class city.
"Controlling rents could discourage landlords from letting their flats and thus decrease the supply of flats,"
That's why it must be done in an intelligent way, combining rent controls with a significant tax on unoccupied flats as well as setting the rent back to a rate sufficiently prior to enactment.so that rents aren't jacked up immediately before it passes throwing thousands of families out of where they currently live.
Prefab housing need not be temporary. The construction technology has advanced many folds.
This has been practised in Singapore since 30 years ago - why Hong Kong is only discussing it now is anybody's guess.......
Prefab units can be constructed locally in HK. This would hit two birds with one stone: 1) demand for prefab buildings and 2) Hong Kong's need to diversify its economy.
To speed up the building process, it makes sense to make the pre-fab units on the mainland. This would save much time, space and the need to import thousands of workers.
Almost all the furnishings in our homes are done this way now.
Sub dividing a tiny public housing flat into even smaller area cannot be a viable solution even on a temporary basis. Presumably many public housing applicants are already living in such subdivided flats. The case for temporary housing should be evaluated in my opinion.
A tax/penalty on unoccupied flats should also be considered. The hard part is defining unoccupied which a think tank may have a go.


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